Listen Up Council On Airport Issue
One hundred fifty seven citizens signed in as attendees at the public hearing help about the expansion of the Ocean City Airport on June 28. Actually, there were more people there. Four County Commissioners were there. Interestingly, although the hearing concerned the expansion of its airport, neither the mayor nor any member of the City Council came. I assume they sent the Public Works Director and the City Manager to substitute for them.
This is a matter which the Mayor and Council have been promoting for years, yet they did not choose to hear for themselves what others had to say. Well, yes, admittedly most of the 157-plus were from West Ocean City or lived near the airport. Since they don’t vote in Ocean City, why worry about them? What they feel doesn’t concern us? Ignore them. However, some of us do live in Ocean City. Remember us.
They can take further heart. Of the 17 speakers, only one – a pilot – was for the expansion. Sixteen were opposed. They received loud and sustained applause from those who came to hear. But 16 to 1 – 16 against and one for – that’s good odds for the “not wanting to hear and be informed council.”
Talking about being informed, Bud Church, the County Commissioner representing West Ocean City, spoke. He indicated he had taken a straw poll of his fellow commissioners on this issue. The result? Six to one opposing expansion. The one vote, from whom? Louise Gulyas. From where? Ocean City. Our representative. There are those odds again.
I spoke with Louise before the hearing. She asked why I was opposed to the expansion. I should insert here that for years I was on the faculty of St. Francis College in Brooklyn as an assistant professor and my subjects were business law, labor relations and labor economics. I lectured 25 semester hours a week. I have a business and law degree and with post-graduate work, I have 248 hours of college credit.
In my reply, I said whether it is in the form of direct taxes or user fees, the tax burden from all government action falls on you and me. When a company files its income tax return, they deduct as a cost of doing business their expenses. Included in those are the airfares their employees incur when they fly. It’s called a user fee. Whatever, it’s a deduction. They don’t pay income tax on that. Yet, the cost of government – state or federal – is paid. It’s borne by all of us as taxpayers. That’s you and me, folks. What the government doesn’t collect from businesses is collected from us. Do you enjoy paying taxes?
Anyway, all business costs get passed on to us as consumers when we buy goods or services. Did you realize that?
Prices have increased markedly. Have you noticed? The government budget has gone up. How’s your budget going?
Louise listened. She replied, “Jim you don’t understand. We taxpayers don’t pay. The companies, the government does …” Really, Louise (who I’ve known for 20 years) it is not me who fails to understand how business and income taxes work. It is you. Rather than continue a pointless discussion, I stopped. And she represents us? We don’t bear the burden. Lord save us.
Continuing, the 16 speakers opposing expansion gave many reasons. They included loss of forests, wetlands and damage to the environment; the cost in tax dollars, $25 million in 2002 figures; the low so-called economic benefit to Ocean City and West Ocean City projected at less than a few million annually; noise; re-routing of Route 611, 1.4 miles to the west – more trees and wetlands gone – no cost given; lower property values for Route 611 owners in the path of the expansion; making Route 611 a curved road increases the possibility of accidents; and Route 611 is the evacuation route from Assateague, South Point and West Ocean City. Why mess with a needed escape road?
The so-called benefits were from the possible increase in business traffic yet, the four companies listed could land in Salisbury which is already set up to handle them now, or in the future. And it is faster, using Routes 50 and 90 to get to Ocean City from Salisbury than it is to come from the city airport. I’ve tried and done it.
The response to a survey of the “business community” as to possible increases in business traffic came from 22 percent of those who responded. That turns out to be less than 5 percent of all asked. And they use that meager response to justify all this upset. Where is the benefit from those few? Who will receive these benefits? Not me. Not you. Not Ocean City. Not Worcester County.
The report says that the newer aircraft climb at a higher angle in departure thereby reducing noise. It does not mention planes landing. Noise is noise whether planes are coming or going. We don’t have to have newer aircraft anyway. That’s what we we’re against – the expansion.
I could go on, the Mayor and Council of Ocean City seem determined to expand the airport. They didn’t hear us at the public hearing. They weren’t there. Let them hear our public outcry now. I was castigated by one of the councilwomen at a recent meeting for not calling her with my opinion. Now I’m calling. You call too. They haven’t listened before. The airport issue is still with us and will say with us unless the Mayor and Council listen. Now. At least they should.
What A Republic
How fortunate we are in our tiny coastal town of Ocean City. We elect our own councilors and mayor and can send them to the showers, if we so choose, each two years. We have our Channel 4 to watch the council sessions two times a day, often better than Seinfeld or Gunsmoke. And our local papers round out the edges superbly. I can see why the Ayatollahs will never go for this.
And a recent four-hour hot session was a gem in our Republic, warts and all. With several touchy subjects, and a lot of citizen emotion displayed, it is fair to say the session was superbly moderated by the president and participated in energetically by the councilors, not to metnion the locals at the podium. Let me explain a few of the very hot subjects that folks walked over the coals for.
Should we "saw" the Art League building on 94th Street in half, like Solomon once pondered, to accommodate two diverse factions? One wanted use of the building en toto and the other shared. The reasons for both were both emotional and sensible. Alas, the Art League got the building "lock, stock and barrel" for $1 annual rent, and the locals got locked out and will have to hoof it, or use their scooters, to make it to the brand, new green county library on 100th St. The Council spaketh.
The millionaire lords of the Town came a begging for more town cash to try to stop the hemorrhaging in the lack of visitors in its hotels, motels, restaurants and shops. Taxes, insurance, energy and food costs were the culprits, as capably explained. The council wisely decided on an ad hoc committee to look into the direction of the current town’s $1.7 million ante-ing up for tourism vs. another $1.7 million cash from the pockets of out-of-town owners and visitors. In my heart, I have always wondered how many bills we can send out of town?
And the request from our local millionaires, I think, is awkward at best.
And the totally engaging president of the Bay Princess Condo Association from Emmaus, Pa., representing condo owners on 81st Street whose members were at 6s and 7s (an old NE expression for going nowhere) over the behomoth building rising from the ashes across the street. Shadows, wetlands, building bulk and
curves all came into the mix. I am afraid that only five coats of invisible paint will assuage the out-of-town owners. But the lady president of the association gets the Tony Award for a superb representation, no matter what.
And what to do with the local merchants who continue to sell "knock-offs" to the local visitors at a horrible disadvantage to the local "honest" vendors.
Very thoroughly vetted by the town council with proposed readings of the ordinance ahead to find a way to pull the vendor’s license through due process.
Alas, these were but a few of the principal items on the town council’s four-hour hot agenda. The whole session was impressively moderated and participated in by all councilors and locals no matter the subject. It sure makes this taxpayer ripe for a change in the current $10,000 basic fees paid the councilors to an amount far more fitting, like $25,000. In the end, are we not fortunate with our great republic, pot holes and all? If "fine dining" in town, lets raise our glasses of Mirrassou in acclaim. If simply dining at Mickey D’s another cup of premium coffee will do. And let’s keep in mind, fair is fair, no matter what.
Hooray For Public
We, the American public can be proud and should pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Just as the politicians thought they were running our country with impunity, up jumps the public to remind them that they just represent us, not speak for us. Some of these politicians actually were upset because we disagreed with them and told them so with millions of letters, faxes, e-mails and phone calls.
I am speaking specifically of the defeat of the recent immigration bill in the Senate. It was a bi-partisan bill up until it was defeated last week; now we hear from one side that it was George Bush’s bill, and the other side calls it the Kennedy bill. Have they no backbone to admit that it was a bill which drove the public to revolt against both sides to demand its defeat? It’s been defeated at least for a couple of years and my point is not to argue its merits and its failings. I understand that many of the Senators read only a synopsis of the more than 300 page bill.
From what I can read and ascertain, the Senate was pretty much certain that the bill would pass. However, a few new up-starts recently elected to the Senate prevailed and helped assure its defeat. Details of these procedures are not necessarily the most important part of their efforts. Senators David Vitter, Louisiana, Jim DeMint, South Carolina, Tom Coburn, Oklahoma, and their other newly arrived Senators soundly defeated the “veteran elder statesmen” Lott, McCain, Warner, Reid, Kennedy, etc. who were in favor of the bill.
Apparently these “new” Senators had been and are listening to public opinion rather than trying to shape our country into what the “old timers” think should be their way. Each of them, just like us, has a right to say and act according to how they feel. However, it is time for these public servants to stand and be accountable for their decisions, especially when they defy their constituents’ wishes and demands.
It is time to reconsider the last vote each of us made in choosing our government representatives; did they do our bidding, or did they vote in a directly opposite manner? Is it time for us to expect those we send to Washington to do what we elected them to do? Is it time for us to look for a change from those career representatives who are re-elected almost automatically, because they were in tune with their constituents 10 years ago? There are alternative candidates who will carry our message, rather than those we habitually elect, only to find they disagree and vote against us.
My son, Daniel, planned a week of vacation at Ocean City. The first day there he lost his wallet, driver’s license and money. The second day, he came home.
The police were notified and the motel was notified. The second day he was home, the Ocean City bus lines called to let us know they found everything and they mailed it all to our home. The first thing that entered our minds was it would never be returned.
We’d like to take this time to thank everyone involved in finding and returning my son’s property. Daniel learned a good lesson. There are good people all over including Ocean City. May God bless them.
Richard V. Martin